Why a V-Strom?

People buy motorcycles for a whole host of reasons; some are good, and some are not so good.  You'll really enjoy the experience the most if you do your homework and buy the bike that best fits your riding style.  I've ridden cruisers (mostly Harleys) for most of my 42+ year riding life; they fit my riding style pretty well, and I still dream about the "potato-potato" sound of a big twin at idle.  In the last couple of years, however, my circumstances have changed and I've been forced to look at other options. 

I have a ranch in Central Texas that is about 100 miles from my home; most of the trip involves riding on rural 2-lane highways through the scenic Texas Hill Country, but the last 10 miles of the route traverse gravel county roads and a 2-rut trail.  I'd like to be able to ride my bike to the place, but a cruiser doesn't stand a chance on that type of terrain so I set out to find another ride.  I settled on two different classes of motorcycles: 1) Dual-Sport bikes, such as The Honda XR, the Suzuki DR, or the venerable Kawasaki KLR, and 2) Adventure Tourers, such as the Suzuki V-Strom, The BMW GS, and the Triumph Tiger.  Since the great majority of my riding will still be on the pavement I elected to go with the larger Adventure Tourers, and I settled on the V-Strom (I currently own a DL650K7) because of its value, its proven engine, and the fact that there is a Suzuki dealer in my small town.  I absoutely love this bike--mine has been rock-solid reliable, it's comfortable on long rides, it handles well in the twisties, and it will handle moderate off-road duty. To understand its versatility, take a look at a ride that I recently completed:

April 8 was sunny and 80*F in Central Texas, so I mounted up for the 200-mile ride through God's country. The first 80 miles were over winding state highways in the Texas Hill Country, where the wildflowers were in full bloom; the scenery was breathtaking and the V-Strom rode and handled like a champ. As a tourer it's not quite the equal of my old Honda ST1300, but it's lighter and easier to handle in the backroad twisties.


(highway 190 just East of San Saba, Texas)


(when the wildflowers bloom in Central Texas they put on a real show!)

Just past San Saba, the pavement ended and the county road was graded gravel--no real problem for the Strom. Though I enjoyed this 8-mile stretch of the ride, the road surface was loose enough that it required my constant attention; you snooze on a gravel road and you'll lose it pretty quickly!


(gravel roads can be tricky--and be sure to watch for that bull on the right!)

After opening a pasture gate I rode the final two miles on a 2-rut trail that wound through creek bottoms and up the side of a canyon to the ranch house. Though I've spent a fair amount of time on enduro bikes, I've never tackled this type of terrain on a 500-pound bike with street tires. I had to pick my way around some large rocks, over deep ruts and through a couple of small creeks, but my feet never had to leave the footpegs.


(rough road ahead...)


(gotta go slow here and watch the rocks and ruts)

I did stop once to observe a family of wild hogs (I also saw deer and wild turkeys), but the V-Strom lugged along in first and second gears with no complaint.


(deer crossing the ranch road)
 

(The only way I could persuade the wild hogs and turkeys to pose was to shoot them--these were taken during the Fall of 2004.  The hog was young but already had 4" tusks.)

When I reached the ranch house I did discover one glaring weakness in the Suzuki--it's just about worthless for carrying 50-lb. sacks of feed to the cattle!


(Here's the ranch house--not fancy, but comfortable!)


(the terrain around the ranch is pretty rugged...)

When my work was done I rode the 10 miles back to the pavement and headed south to Llano, where I stopped and devoured a 1-lb pork chop at the world-famous Cooper's BBQ. I took another route home, traveling from Llano through the hills and curves in the Highland Lakes country.  Along the way I stopped to observe a pair of Bald Eagles nesting by the Llano River; three adult eagles are raising a pair of eaglets who are about ready to leave the nest.


(you can see all 3 adults in this shot--the nest is over 6 feet in diameter)


(highway 29 between Llano and Burnet)

Another hour and I am home--I may need to have this big silly grin surgically removed from my face! I'd love to invite my Harley-riding buddies to go with me next time, but they'd never risk damage to all that chrome--I guess that they'll just go to the local Sonic Drive-In and park next to the other guys in T-shirts and do-rags. They'll never know what they missed...